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Festival City Stories 15 Aug 2022
Since attending his first WOMADELAIDE in 1996, Dr Darryl Sellwood has been among the world music festival’s most loyal disciples, joining the exuberant crowds that congregate each year in Adelaide’s leafy Botanic Park. For those four days in March, the Research Fellow and disability advocate’s days are packed with good food and wine, spending time with old and new friends, and catching as many musical acts as he can cram in.
“I’m into a whole range of music,” he says. “It has to be good quality … but I like music from opera to Afropop to heavy metal.”
For Darryl, attending an event of the size of WOMAD comes with logistical challenges that most do not have to consider.
“I have cerebral palsy, which affects my movement,” he says during an interview which was conducted with the interpretation assistance of a support worker and Darryl’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication device.
“I can hear and understand like everyone, but my body doesn’t always behave the way I want it to.”
Darryl goes about his days in an electric wheelchair, pursuing his interests and ambitions with characteristic resolve, purpose, and good humour. In recent years he has, among other achievements, started Dr Dazz’s Coffee, a business selling ethically-sourced coffee beans; completed PhD research at Flinders University; and continued his work as a critical voice in disability advocacy, contributing to journals and conferences in Australia and abroad. “We all need to be a voice for people who are being discriminated against,” he says.
Arts and culture are an enduring passion. Darryl recalls his first experience of a festival when he attended the Come Out children’s festival as a child. He remembers the excitement he felt that day, the sounds of music and drums, and his first taste of the sense of collective joy that brings people together during festival time. This feeling has carried into his adult life; come March each year, he will often be found catching a comedy show or soaking up the atmosphere in the city’s East End during festival season. He describes it as a time of year when people who might not otherwise meet can come together and find common ground.
“I reckon it helps build communities, which we need more of.”
But Darryl will always see WOMAD as the jewel in the crown of Adelaide’s festivals, worth every hurdle it takes for him to be there. “Moving around can be a challenge,” he says, describing simple activities such as lining up for food and drink or finding a free space in WOMAD’s accessible seating areas as difficult.
However, the fonder memories of WOMADs from throughout the years are ones that prevail – countless live performances that have inspired awe and euphoria, the strong community spirit that fills the air, a shared energy that seems to connect each person in crowds.
“There are hundreds of stories,” he says, reflecting on more than twenty years going to WOMAD.
“It’s just a good community, good wine, music, friendship. What else do you want?”
This article is part of the Festival City Stories series, a collection of reflections about Adelaide made by the people who make this a festival place. The project was funded through the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Arts South Australia, Arts Recovery Fund, and delivered in partnership with the State Library of South Australia.
Written by: Sarah Couper
Photography by: Morgan Sette
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